Nick Drake

Heaven in a Wild Flower: An Exploration of Nick Drake

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Taking its name from a poem by William Blake ("To see a world in a grain of sand/And a heaven in a wild flower/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in an hour"), this is a fine introduction to the distinctive and lasting work of English folksinger Nick Drake, specifically his three proper albums (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Later, and Pink Moon). It isn't definitive, however, as it doesn't include any tracks from the valuable outtakes collection, Time of No Reply. And, unlike many box sets, Fruit Tree ultimately trumps all other Drake releases simply because it includes everything and everything really is worth including. Consequently, Heaven in a Wild Flower does not include "Black Eyed Dog," one of the spookiest songs ever written. In it, the black-eyed dog (i.e., Death) pays Drake a visit ("A black eyed dog he called at my door/The black eyed dog he called for more"). His far-too-early death later that year (1974) from a prescription drug overdose (which may or may not have been intentional) only makes the song seem more ominous. Since the release of this collection in 1986, Drake's stature has only grown, as evidenced by the popular Volkswagen commercial (which sent sales of Pink Moon soaring), Lucinda Williams' haunting cover of "Which Will" (from Sweet Old World), and Alison Anders' powerful, semi-autobiographical film, Things Behind the Sun, which took its name from the Drake song and includes it on the soundtrack. In 1994, Rykodisc released Way to Blue, a more readily available collection, which includes most of these tracks (with the notable exception of "Thoughts of Mary Jane," a curious omission) plus a few from Time of No Reply -- like the aforementioned "Black Eyed Dog," truly one of Drake's best.

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